How to Make an Herb Spiral
Herb spirals are one of my favorite permaculture elements to a garden. They are aesthetically amazing, have ever flowing energy to them - like a mandala, and they have all the culinary herbs you’d need right in one place. To me, they just make sense to have in your yard and they are so easy to make! I learned how to make herb spirals from the book Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway - probably my favorite permaculture book!
We had to rebuild ours recently because last year, I built the old one around a freshly cut stump. Naturally, it began to grow back and crawled up through the whole spiral! To make the new one, we disassembled the old one and build the new one right next to it, and easy fix though kinda embarrassing this happened in the first place! You live and you learn, right?
An herb spiral is a small structure about 6 feet in diameter (or 3 feet if you desire a mini version) and 2-3 feet hight. They are built out of rocks or bricks on the outside and filled in with soil in a spiral shape. Since it is a mound, it creates shadows during certain times of day - creating micro climates in each space of the spiral. For instance, the very top of the spiral will get sun all day long, so a heat loving plant should be planted here.
If you’re intrigued, keep reading! I’ll teach you how to simply make your own!
Rocks or bricks (if you have lots of rocks in your yard, collect a pile of them)A cubic yard of soil or compost
Cardboard (you can get FREE at your grocery store)
Wood chips/mulch (you can get FREE from your local tree trimming company, just give them a call!)
Herbs of choice
Fallen leaves (optional, but will eventually add to your soil over time and attracts worms)
Veggie food scraps (use with caution - wildlife can dig them up and ruin your spiral. Do this if your herb spiral is in a fenced in area)
Create your outline. Place a rock in the center of where you want to have your spiral. Make sure it is a relatively flat surface that you can build upon. You wouldn’t want it to topple over! Take a yard stick and like a clock, move it around the rock and place a new rock at the end of the stick. By the time you hit 12 o'clock, it should be a perfect circle, 6 feet in diameter in every direction.
Determine north. That is where the bottom, lowest part of the spiral starts. Make North your 12 o'clock. Begin creating a rock wall and go counter clockwise, building it up gradually as you go. Once you get to 1 o’clock, begin spiraling it inside the circle. Stack rocks on top of each other, fitting together like a puzzle. You want the center to be between 2-3 feet high off the ground, creating a mound.
As you build the structure up, add a huge layer of cardboard into the bottom. The layer can be up to a foot thick. This will help keep the moisture in the soil, as well as feed your plants for the next year or so. If you’re really ambitious, you can put vegetable food scraps under the cardboard to attract worms and other beneficial soil crawlers.
After you layer down your cardboard, get it wet and begin filling in the spiral with soil or compost. Be sure to give your plants high quality soil/compost as this will feed them the vital nutrients they need. You will probably need a yard or less of soil if you decide to buy in bulk.
Now it is time to plant your herbs! Each herb has its own “microclimate” that is best suited for it based on its individual needs. For instance, mint desires a cooler, shady place which is why it is in the northern and lowest part of the spiral. It is up to you what your herb spiral will contain, though here is a rough sketch of what we have in our herb spiral and in what spots:
6. Once all of your herbs are planted, water them into the soil. Then, take some wood chips/mulch and cover the soil with it. This is really important for holding in the moisture in the soil and for creating new soil. If you can add fallen leaves before the mulch, that would be amazing! These layers will break down over time and create new, black soil filled with worm castings and nutrients that your plants need. It is feeding your plants for free.
7. Water the spiral one last time and add some flair to it if you like. We added crystals on the top to attract fairies and high vibe energy to help the plants grow better.